When I learned that Marantz was releasing a new all-digital recorder, I was excited by the advertisements. It looked to me to be the smallest recorder to date, and if the features the ad proclaimed were true, it would make this new breed of recorder a must-have. So, after a week of drooling over the ad, you can imagine my surprise when my GM told me he was thinking of purchasing two new recorders. When he asked me if I had any ideas, I jumped on the opportunity to get my hands on the new unit.
We placed our order, and within a few weeks the first of the shipments arrived. Because the dealer is just up the road, we really were one of the first broadcast stations to use the unit.
Marantz did not disappoint on the compactness. The PMD660 fits in the palm of your hand. Measuring 7"L x 4.5"W x 2"H, the unit is highly portable. With the four AA batteries (alkaline or NiMH) it weighs in around two pounds.
Included in the North America kit is a carry strap, ac adapter, RCA 1/8"Y adapter, securing screws to lock the Compact Flash card inside, a 64MB Compact Flash memory card and a USB cable.
Performance at a glance
Long recording times
Dual XLR mic jacks
Built-in stereo mics
Line in/out via 1/8” stereo jacks
ALC gain control
The PMD660, like a good number of units on the market today, uses Compact Flash memory cards to store the digital audio. The amount of record time depends on the size of the card used. The unit will accept any card size. We had just more than 11 minutes of recording on the included 64MB card using the mono PCM 44.1kHz setting. It can be set to record in mono or stereo audio, and at 44.1kHz or 48kHz rates in MP3 or WAV formats. Files can be accessed directly by an audio editor but needs no software to move files to a PC.
The unit includes two XLR mic inputs (L/R), stereo line in and out on dual 1/8" jacks and phantom power. The audio we recorded in the field for use in commercials was studio quality. The internal stereo mics worked surprisingly well, and, while not necessarily my first choice for interview recording, for a conference room table it can't be beat.
The recorder also includes an eight-stage LED VU meter that can be customized through the menu options, as can the manual and automatic stereo level control. The ALC works well, however, the VU display will sometimes show an excessive level even though the audio level does not exceed the limits. The first time we tried it, I immediately put the audio into the computer to listen. It looked good and sounded even better.
Easy to follow
One of the features I like about the unit is the menu hierarchy. With a quick read of the manual you can access all the menu items and customize the recorder to suit your needs. Some of the options include the ability to quickly select one of three presets, and settings for input, output, recording format and channel, prerecord and silence skip.
The connector panel on the PMD660.
The prerecord feature buffers two seconds of audio while the recorder is in record pause. This is handy for users who like to grab the mic and start talking even before the unit is actually rolling. The silent skip feature does just that. When the audio falls below a preset level, the unit pauses recording, saving memory.
I found the ability to manually or automatically mark sections of the recording useful, and the backlit display makes it easy to read in any light. Markers can be set during a recording for Virtual Track edits. This can save time in the production room on long-form projects. The backlight on the LCD display has a classy blue glow to it.
The unit includes a USB port. The supplied USB cable connects to a computer, so that when the unit is in disk mode it will appear as a disk drive.
There are few negatives about the recorder, but I do have some concerns. The small speaker that is built into the unit performs as expected. It's not spectacular, and because of its size has a limited frequency response, but, for reviewing a take in the field, it does the job.
This is an all-digital unit, so gone are the days when I could order more pinch rollers or heads. Any repairs to the main unit itself would probably have to be made by Marantz or one of its authorized repair houses. My other concern is the headphone jack. Unlike some other digital recorders, the jack built into the PMD660 is 1/8" stereo. Although I haven't had any problems so far, I've seen too many instances in other units where the 1/8" jack fails and has to be repaired. I'm a fan of 1/4" headphone jacks on recorders, but because of the compact size of the unit, maybe a compromise had to be made.
Overall, the Marantz PMD660 is a great recorder, and a good value for the money. Whether you're recording interviews, commercials, news bytes or three-hour full-mixed concerts, it does the job exceptionally well, and is ready to go right out of the box.
English is chief engineer at WVLG-AM in The Villages, FL.
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